On April 14, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a controversial plan to relocate asylum seekers to Rwanda. Activists and charities have condemned the Rwanda scheme saying it could be particularly harmful to LGBTQ+ migrants seeking asylum in the UK.
Apparently, the new trial scheme would mostly be restricted to male asylum seekers arriving in the UK, who will be sent to Rwanda by the British government and then put through an asylum process at the end of which, if successful, they will be granted long-term accommodation in the country.
In a speech in Kent, Boris Johnson called this plan an “innovative approach, driven by our shared humanitarian impulse and made possible by Brexit freedoms,” and he added that the UK will be giving Rwanda the help needed to resettle “tens of thousands of people in the years ahead”.
Here to tell the Home Office that refugees are welcome here!
A ‘one way ticket to Rwanda’ is a cruel, shameless and barbaric plan.
But we can stop it! pic.twitter.com/WJSG0EbL7E
— Global Justice Now (@GlobalJusticeUK) April 14, 2022
During a conference in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the plan was part of a “joint new migration and economic development partnership,” and that the UK is “making substantial investments in the economic development of Rwanda.”
Many human rights and refugee organisations have expressed their concerns about this plan. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) urged Rwanda and the UK to reconsider the plan, expressing their opposition to arrangements that transfer refugees to countries where there are no sufficient standards and safeguards to ensure their safety.
The organisation Human Rights Watch issued a statement in which they voice their opposition to the plan with the following words: “Rwanda’s appalling human rights record is well documented.” The statement goes on to say: “Rwanda has a known track record of extrajudicial killings, suspicious deaths in custody, unlawful or arbitrary detention, torture, and abusive prosecutions, particularly targeting critics and dissidents. In fact, the UK directly raised its concerns about respect for human rights with Rwanda, and grants asylum to Rwandans who have fled the country, including four just last year”.
The agreement that will be announced today means that #LGBTQI+ people who have fled life-threatening situations and sought safety here will instead be sent to a country where it is not safe to be LGBTQI+.
— Rainbow Migration (@rainbowmigrants) April 14, 2022
The decision to send asylum seekers to Rwanda under the new scheme could have particularly harmful implications in the case of LGBTQ+ people. Although homosexuality is not illegal in the country, LGBTQ+ people constantly experience discrimination and often face arrest because of a law that is intended to uphold “good morals”.
Sonia Lenegan, the Legal and Policy Director of the LGBTQ+ group Rainbow Migration, commented on the Rwanda scheme by saying: “We know that in Rwanda it is not easy for LGBTQI+ people to be open due to the discrimination and abuse they experience, and so it is extremely difficult to see how anyone in that situation will be able to make an asylum claim based on the fact that they are LGBTQI+, while also having to hide who they are”.
“Any LGBTQI+ person who is not prepared to stay in that situation in Rwanda, and who does want to live openly and safely, is instead likely to be pushed into making further dangerous journeys” she added.
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